Are new washing machines made as well as they used to be?
The short answer is no, most are a long way from the quality of the past. But you can still buy high quality washing machines ( e.g. Miele washing machines ). It's just that they are seen as being very expensive compared with most "normal" ones, which have become even cheaper in real terms because of a dumbing down of quality over the last 20 years. The truth is that the "expensive" washing machines are simply reflecting the proper price of a high quality washing machine (with quality aftersales to match) these days ...
...The problem is that many manufacturers who used to make good, reliable appliances are no longer making them to the same standards as they once did. Some previously trusted household-name manufacturers have also been taken over by other companies, who then produced their own (lower quality) washing machines in their place. The washing machine changed its quality, but kept the original name. [ related: list of who makes which washing machines ]
Reduced build quality
As competition in the market increased, instead of bravely maintaining quality and seeing their washing machines inevitably rise in price (and probably - though not necessarily - be ignored by a public obsessed with price) many of these manufacturers have found themselves constantly having to reduce quality and cut corners to keep their products competitively priced. They now routinely redesign their washing machines from scratch, ditching tried and tested methods and designs in favour of cheaper new production methods and cheaper suppliers of parts.
Most of these manufacturers have been making washing machines for many decades, and should have developed incredibly reliable ones by now. Instead they are selling new washing machines that still suffer the same faults their previous models suffered from over 10-years ago. Instead of their appliances becoming better with time and experience, they get worse, or at best stay the same.
Meanwhile, the minority of companies who chose the quality route, produce quality washing machines that only a minority buy because the prices seem too high in comparison with the ubiquitous cheap ones. The customers sticking with many of the household names then start to think that they are all not as good as they used to be and are unaware of the gulf between something like a Hotpoint, Hoover, Candy or Indesit - and a Miele.
Most current washing machines are way too cheap
The natural rise in production costs over the years combined with inflation has seen the best quality washing machines reach prices that the majority of people won't accept (or simply can't afford). On the other hand, mass production on a global scale, the buying up of manufacturers by global companies ( see who really makes your washing machine ) and dumbing down of quality, has made the budget to mid price range cheaper to buy than ever before - but comparatively much more expensive than ever before to repair.
For example, Hoover used to sell a 1200 spin 4.5Kg washing machine at over £400 in the 1990s, yet you can now (2008) buy a Hoover 1600 spin 6Kg washing machine for £211. That's inflation in reverse and it's achieved in large part by reducing quality and repair-ability.
In 1973, a basic Hoover washing machine was £94.88, in today's prices that's £687 ( Source Inflation calculator ). Today - over 30 years later a similarly basic model but with faster spins and a bigger drum can be bought for £220. That's equivalent to just £30.77 in 1973. So in 30 years, the price of a basic washing machine has dropped (in real terms) by nearly 70% which is absolutely staggering.
A 70% reduction in cost 30 years later is impossible without reducing the quality and longevity of the product. If you want to produce a washing machine made as well as the Hoover was in 1973 it would cost much more like £500+ and with extra features and technical advances it could easily be £700+.
Top quality, extremely well built washing machines are still available and they are every bit as reliable as they used to be - if not more so. They just usually cost between £500 and over £1000 ( warning be careful of assuming a £500 washing machine has to be high build quality - are more expensive washing machines better quality? ).
A quality washing machine should last a good 15 - 20 years, but only a few manufacturers produce any ( Miele being the best ). Most manufacturers prefer to sell to the mass market in vast quantities, but it's getting harder for them to compete on price and they've dug themselves into a big hole.
Who's to blame?
Consumers relentlessly batter down prices by rewarding those who can do it £5 cheaper and punishing those who can't by not buying them. Too many consumers focus on price over quality and choose faster spins and more features over solid build quality and repair-ability. The majority of consumers swap over to cheaper brands if the one they always had goes up in price. There's a limit to the savings to be made by clever, innovative production methods. Inevitably manufacturers had to resort to cutting down the length of the mains cable and hoses, reducing the quality and sturdiness of the main casing, changing metal parts to plastic etc. and reducing the quality and repair-ability of components in order to satisfy the demand for cheap prices.
I believe that after 20 or more years of this, the public are growing tired of the constant breakdowns and lack of longevity of many modern washing machines. They are eventually wising up to the fact that cheap ones are mostly more trouble than they are worth and are too important a product in the home to be so cheaply produced.
[ Possibly the most repairable washing machine around due to cheaper spare parts (in the UK) and a refreshing willingness to support customers and repairers alike with technical support and error codes is the ISE washing machine which is backed up by the UK Whitegoods group.]
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More topics in this section -
- Are new washing machines only built to last 5 years?
- Do washing machines have built-in obsolescence?
- Which are the most reliable and the least reliable makes of washing machine?
- Which is the best washing machine to buy?
- If I buy a more expensive washing machine, do I get a better washing machine?
- Pros and cons: Quality washing machine verses cheap washing machine
Main Buying Section: Buying washing machines
Alternative washing machine reviews
Although my reviews are comprehensive and very detailed, they are limited in number and may not feature all the very latest models. Which? have the resources to review many of the latest washing machines and have a specially set up test laboratory. They also have a huge database of savvy members to gain reliability and satisfaction feedback from.
You can easily obtain a 1 month trial for just £1 from them, which you may find useful as they review and advise on all products, not just washing machines. Which? washing machine reviews | Which? washer dryer reviews (NOTE: The Which? reviews and consumer advice is available immediately online and a 1 month trial is available for just £1)
Which? Best washing machine brands (NOTE: The Which? reviews and consumer advice is available immediately online and a 1 month trial is available for just £1)